On December 7 of this year, 2010, Glasgow-based artist Susan Philipsz won the Turner Prize for her work "Lowlands."
It was the first time ever that a work of sound -- a sound installation, or piece of sound art -- had won the award.
That same day, barely three hours later, art critic Richard Dorment of the Telegraph wrote, "I loathe the kind of think-me sensitive tuneless stuff Ms Philipsz sings." He wrote a lot more, mauling an adventurous and long-running series on BBC Radio 3 called Late Night Junction, and dispensing with folk music as a whole. (Philipsz's "Lowlands" involves several overlapping recordings of her singing the 16th-century lament from which the piece takes its name.)
Dorment apparently feels obliged to question the status of Philipsz's "Lowlands" as a work of art. That's fair, even if fretting over what is and is not art is a time-consuming parlor game that keeps people busy when they might be looking for the art in things. It's equally fair to say that what Dorment wrote is not art criticism; it's a rant, a bullying and uninformed one that is more an expression of the author's personal taste than an investigation of the subject at hand.
Of Philipsz's win, Dorment wrote dismissively, "Cue a long low collective sigh from art lovers across the country."
We took that cue seriously, as lovers of art across the world, and admirers of Philipsz's work.
And in taking it seriously, we took it literally. This is a compilation of a dozen recordings by musicians incensed by Dorment's assault.
Each recording on this compilation was recorded for this project, and uses the human sigh as its source material. That is 'Lowlands: A Sigh Collective.' The words here are my own and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of the participants. Their response is in their music, in their sound.
The cover art is by Brian Scott, of boondesign.com.
More details at disquiet.com/turner2010.
Marc Weidenbaum December 2010 Disquiet.com San Francisco